ABOUT BILL

This is a basic page posted in 2019.  Later I may insert images of a few Shortwave listener certificates , and some of my QSL's

 

This site is not about me, but you might like to know something about me and how I came to be presenting this website.  I am by profession an educator, having been a high school teacher, guidance counsellor and registrar in a career that spanned from 1974 to 2015, so that should tell you something about my present age.  I have also taught driver education since 1975, as a part-time job, and I still do, though I no longer go out in the car with students.  If you think that could be a nerve-wracking job, it really wasn't, but how about the fact that I have 40 or more new students in front of me each month in the classroom part of driver ed.  Here is a link to McKenna's Driving School, for whom I instruct.  

I know that nothing so far connects me with radio communications, which of course is the focus of this website.  Actually I do have two professional connections to radio.  In my earlier years, prior to becoming a teacher, I was a naval officer for a short while, and my specialty was Communications and Electronic Warfare.  I certainly was not the technical expert like the sailors under me but I got to oversee the radio and signals department and work on a daily basis with the top secret NATO codes of the day. Of course as a MARS officer I also got to pilot and navigate the ship, but I really was not in for long. My only voyage of any major length was from Halifax to Esquimalt through the Panama Canal.  

My other professional connection to radio exists right now.   After I finally retired from the school system in 2015 I became a dispatch operator at Shubie Radio.  Shubie is the Nova Scotia provincial government communications centre.  It is located adjacent to the Lands & Forestry Fire Control Centre, and next door to the L&F helicopter base.    In this job I use the TMR radio system all day and have a multitude of talkgroups at my disposal.  We communicate with mobile law enforcement and allied personnel such as Conservation Officers, Vehicle Compliance Officers, Sheriffs, Animal Welfare, Environmental Compliance, and Parks Canada, as well as with remote location personnel working for Lands & Forestry and Energy.   We also do flight following for the four L & F helicopters.    Another aspect is to take calls from the public regarding dead and injured animals, hunting infractions, wildfires, etc.   We also call out several small fire departments in various parts of the province.    Finally, and this list is not complete, we also  monitor the provincial government's network of radio sites for intrusions and technical faults, and dispatch personnel to remedy these situations.

So I do have some connection to radio via work, but really that is not the whole story.   I began my interest in radio when I was very young... maybe around 8 years old when I could hear on our home radio, a radio beacon transmitting morse code.  This was back in the fifties when people still had radio as a big part of their lives.  As a teen I listened to long distance AM radio including across the continent, and that developed into listening to shortwave broadcasting, and then my actual specialty back in the day which was monitoring 2 MHz marine radio, especially the US Coast Guard.  I have many QSL cards from USCG stations around North America as well as from Canadian coast stations and from ships as well.  My prize marine QSL's include the royal yacht Britannia, as well as a Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft!  If you do not know what a QSL card is, click here for my page about them. It may in turn link to some of my actual QSL's.  I could say a lot more about my early years listening to MF and HF radio of various types.  [QSL link not yet active.]

After I had moved to Nova Scotia from British Columbia back in the early 70's I gradually became more acquainted with VHF radio.  I did pass my amateur radio operator's certificate in 1978 and apart from a very short time trying out HF, I became essentially a VHF-only ham, and not very active at that. MY current call sign is VE1CY. I did obtain my licence back when Morse Code was a necessity in the testing.  I did get somewhat familiar with VHF repeaters and the spectrum in general, and after obtaining a simple crystal-controlled scanner, I obtained one of the first programmable scanners, the Radio Shack PRO-30.  It only had 16 channels, and at first there were no directories of frequencies, so there was a lot of searching going on.  This is when I first became acquainted with the RCMP network on 155 MHz and the provincial government networks on various parts of the VHF band, and the marine band, and as well as the aero band.   It was a fantastic new world and I really did get into it, such that I was consumed to some extent, and was a nuisance to my family, especially my wife who had to put up with a scanner in the car at all times, something she hated for sure.

One thing that even my wife never understood is that while there were some people out there who had scanners in order to listen in on the local fire and police goings-on, my interest has always been on figuring out the systems, and trying for distant reception.  It is more a technical interest than a "nosey" interest.   But one thing must always be kept in mind:  In Canada the airwaves are public not private.  Anything transmitted on the air is in fact public and the onus is on the system operators to promote their own desired level of privacy by using such things as scrambling and encryption.   Operators of even the most modern systems do not always realize that frequencies, talkgroup and radio ID numbers and activity of those talkgroups and radios is freely available to anyone who cares to tune in, even if the actual content of traffic is masked by encryption.  I myself am very careful today to preserve the privacy of conversations on the trunked radio system, and the identity of talkgroups and radios, as these are not in the public realm.

As time went on, there began to be frequency directories being sold in such places as Radio Shack, so this helped a lot.  The biggest boost to the scanning hobby came in the 90's with the explosion in the internet and computer use in general.   I began my website sometime around 1999, and this coincided more or less with the introduction of the first provincial TMR system.    The city of Halifax already had a small trunk system utilizing two sites, but the provincial one was not only more sophisticated, it also had many more sites, somewhere around 70.    There was a lot of interest in TMR, and I had correspondence and input from quite a lot of enthusiasts, all of whom were trying to figure out anything they could about the system.    I always have said that discerning and investigative lay people tend to know more than the professionals about some aspects of radio, and this I think was true about the TMR.  We radio nerds listened to all the talkgroups we could, as well as the other radio services who didn't use TMR, and had a wonderful overall view of the radio communications systems of Nova Scotia and the Maritimes.  This would later prove invaluable in the advancement of interoperability in our region, as my closest enthusiast buddies later joined PSFC, the provincial agency that oversees the TMR system. and one of them has risen to a very high level in it due to his interest and insights that come from his hobby days.  I myself later joined PSFC, as Shubie is a component of that agency.

Today there remains much less interest in scanning and in the TMR, as most agencies of interest have now gone to encryption, and there remains little to monitor.  Besides, on the technical side there is little to figure out, as it is all done.    Encryption is something that you might think I would be against, but the reality is, in this age of privacy concerns I fully support it as a necessity.

These days I really only listen to aero communications with any great regularity.  I have always been interested in aircraft and with my radio interest have developed quite an unusual level of understanding of the aero navigation and communications system in our region. I am not one to have the very latest scanner, as my interest now does not warrant it.  My natural educator proclivity leads me to want to share with you and that is what this website is all about.  I do think that hardly anyone ever looks at it, but still I feel the urge to keep it up.  Note that this is not free Facebook page, but rather a real website with its own high level domain name.  Thanks for visiting.  If you have any comments or corrections feel free to contact me using marscan1 AT gmail.com